Tag Archives: Perspective

Caution and Risk

Just the right balance between these two forces seems to be not only the key to survival, but also plays into success.  Cautious people live to tell their tales and to raise a new generation, but they might not have taken enough risk.  Risk takers might have gone a bit too far and checked out early.

 

I just spent some time with a couple of four month old kittens.  Sisters, one just a tad bolder than the other.  Kittens instinctively know that a certain hesitancy around new things is prudent, but they also have a strong need to know – what’s in here, can I fit in there, can I jump high enough, will this hold my weight…

DSC03876

Natural laws and human rules provide some boundaries for their explorations.  A thing just beyond their reach is terribly tempting, conversely after a few minutes with the thing it loses its charm and they are off to the next thing.

 

How do we find that right balance for ourselves?  Thoughts of if only I’d done or not done this or that might mean that we were too cautious or too bold.  But maybe only in hindsight, too.  I bought my house right before the housing crash so I shake my head at the amount of money that – on paper – has disappeared.  But I’ve had the benefit of living in the house for the last nine years and being removed from the townhouse complex where I had previously lived.  So, do I count this in the good or bad category?  Hmmm.

 

Stay or move, keep a job or switch, invest in Microsoft (wish I had) or buy that car which provided mobility (when it wasn’t in the shop).  Get married, have a baby, buy a house, retire now – here or there?  Caution or risk?

 

I’m not sure that I will ever figure out just the right balance, but the consideration is worthy of a few more years of research (also known as living).  When have you been overly cautious or entirely too risky?  Or maybe you have gotten it just right?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Hardy

Now this is a word that we don’t use nearly often enough these days.

 

“I’m interested in that thing that happens where there’s a breaking point for some people and not for others. You go through such hardship, things that are almost impossibly difficult, and there’s no sign that it’s going to get any better, and that’s the point when people quit. But some don’t.”

~Robert Redford

 

Life has taught me that hardy is something that I want to be, a trait that I want to cultivate.  There are all sorts of breaking points, and I have a few memories of quitting this or that, like playing the flute, early on that didn’t sit well with my competitive nature.

 

Hardiness consists of these characteristics – resilience, optimism, flexibility and creativity.  I read this in periodic research that I have done and I believe it because it has been true for me.  The beautiful thing about hardiness, is that while some people are inherently hardier to begin with, it is something that can be learned and strengthened over time.

 

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

a hardy plant, Lily of the Valley

I do not lean toward optimism, but I can turn my thoughts in that direction.  My mom was quite the optimist and I could regularly compare my Eeyore mindset to hers, and sometimes be amazed that her belief that things would be ok seemed to actually make them ok.

 

I’ve learned resilience can be born from stubbornness combined with a willingness to learn.   Realization that resilience is something that I am mastering came slowly.

 

Flexibility and creativity also make sense as parts of the hardy equation.  Creativity provides strengths and helps recharge batteries.  And flexibility releases some of the pressure from stress.

 

I am mere days away from the beginning of a new decade, so while I hope that you get something out of reading this post it is admittedly more of an exhortation to myself that I know how to be hardy.  I hope that you do too.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Just a Little Reward

I was puttering in the kitchen and thinking about what I should write.  I have bits of ideas tucked here and jotted down there, but it was too much to go and find them to see if any appealed right now.  I happen to be working my way through left overs, which often seems to fall to me because my son prefers to make new creations.  (I kind of remember enjoying creating new flavors in the kitchen myself once upon a time.)

 

Mostly I don’t mind left overs and I really hate waste.  My reusable sandwich bag was a topic at lunch today among my coworkers.  (How easily it can be washed and how I wash it.)  But it can quickly become something I have to do if my son doesn’t join in and eat some too, particularly if he has made a batch of something way too large for us to eat in a couple of sittings.

 

One of my son's most recent creations.

One of my son’s most recent creations.

These led to thoughts of how we reward ourselves, if we reward ourselves and whether or not we should reward ourselves.  I happen to be reading a book that is set in the Middle Ages and this is making me think about how we are rewarded just by living in this century and not back then.  But I should just use modern context.

 

It is in my nature to use some sort of carrot to get myself to do something I don’t want to do.  For instance I can watch an episode of a show that I like after I make a call that I don’t want to make.  I don’t think of that as a reward, per se, but more of a prompt.  Delayed gratification.

 

My favorite reward for getting through a work week is the moment that I can turn off the alarm on Friday night, followed by extra time reading, a fine night’s sleep and then the luxury of waking up slowly and having a leisurely mug of tea Saturday morning.  Heaven.

 

My rewards might seem small to some, or decadent to others.  But the beauty of rewards are that they should be personal.  How do you reward yourself?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Passage of Time, Accumulation of Dates

Weeks ago I called my eye doctor’s office for an appointment.  I wanted the first morning appointment, which was more important than the day.  I was given Thursday the 11th and I accepted.  The date gave me pause as I wrote it in my calendar.  I participate in a group that meets on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month so we met last night and as I prepared the agenda prior to last night’s meeting, and wrote the date, I paused again.

 

We accumulate dates that have personal meaning and broader social meaning.  Some are good – births and weddings – some less so – deaths and other endings.  It is hard to live a life and not accumulate dates, whether you acknowledge them or not.  A few can make a generation shudder, close their eyes and review the sights of the original moment when the date became etched.  Dates rarely carry meaning past a generation or two except as something obscure to memorize for a history test.

 

I’ve been to Gettysburg twice in my life so far.  The first time as a child whose father studied the Civil War era and passed on his interest in history.  The second I was there alone, as a stop on a trip to see family in Philadelphia.  I happened to come in to town on the same route that the Confederate soldiers had taken on a hot July day in 1863.  I was there on a hot August day almost 150 years later but the area retained an aura of the momentous occurrences of those 3 days in July that shaped our country.

 

I felt the need to try to express to those who never moved on from those quiet fields that we had learned something from their sacrifice.

 

Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

Gettysburg Division monuments, photo credit Wikipedia

This past summer we have been reminded that the hundredth anniversary of several significant moments of WWI have occurred.  This series of events that gave shape to a fair portion of our modern world, but is fusty and musty to most.  My thoughts turn to what we have learned from those events.

 

And the date that resonates for this generation, 9/11.  Although I overheard a father saying yesterday, with dismay, that his child was born in 2005 and had such different points of reference.   I didn’t personally know anyone who died that day.  If I know anyone who was somehow directly affected by those events on that blue sky, no cloud Tuesday, they haven’t mentioned it.  But it is a date that gives us all pause.

 

I ask my usual question, what have I learned?  How do you pause?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Now Resume Our Regular Life, Already in Progress

Do broadcast networks still say that?  It used to be when they had breaking news that they would cut into regular broadcasting to inform their viewership of that news and then tell us that they ‘now resume our regular programming, already in progress’.  I heard it often enough that the phrase echoes for me sometimes.

 

Last week I apparently tempted Fate when I wrote this piece.  (Although Fate may want to take a refresher course in reading comprehension – I was empathizing with people dealing with anything outside the norm of their regular lives.)  Fate is nothing if not capricious and possessing a strong sense of the absurd.  Not that anything truly awful happened to me, not last week anyway, but plenty of little and middle sized things were piling up to keep me just off balance from routine.  Mostly things at work.

 

Friday afternoon we looked out the windows of the office and noticed it was ominous, like deep twilight, and then the rain came along.  This has been such a regular occurrence in recent time that we got back to work.  This time my son called to ask me if it had rained heavily and I said it had.  He hadn’t experienced heavy rain where he had been, but was surprised to find trees and branches down all around our neighborhood and our power out.

 

I could see that the storm had been more intense as I drove north toward home after work.  More leaf and branch litter in the roads, and then I started to come across traffic lights without power.  (FYI treat them like a 4-way stop, please.)  And roads blocked by police cars.  Oh, my.  Now I could see big branches down and large wounds on trees.

 

I have 2 large cottonwoods in the front yard and 3 large maples in the back along with some smaller trees (plus 2 done-for ash trees).  I love my trees, but at moments like this, I cringe a bit.  But my son hadn’t mentioned any significant damage to our house and yard.

 

these will become firewood (taken through the screen because the mosquitoes are viscous)

these will become firewood (taken through the screen because the mosquitoes are viscous)

Our power was still out when I arrived, which is somewhat unusual.  We have been pretty lucky that it is rarely out more than an hour or two.  Thankfully I have a gas water heater and a gas stove… That has electronic ignition.  We can light the burners for the stove top, but no oven.  Don’t open the refrigerator too often and wait it out.  We did go out to eat, partly out of curiosity to see the damage.  And felt pangs of jealousy for all those who had power.

 

We played some Yahtzee by the light of lanterns and talked, then went to bed early as earlier generations often did before electricity.  Hoping that the power would be back over night.

 

The power wasn’t restored until around 5 am on Sunday.  Saturday became a struggle to maintain modern life.  My son’s phone had died, he needed to print something before work that evening, we could no longer access our internet because the back-up battery had died, the computer’s battery was running low and most ominous of all the fridge was warming up.

 

Have I mentioned before that my father was a professional Boy Scout for 33 years?  We figured out short term solutions to each problem, and it started to look like we were camping out in our own home.  My sister, bless her, has a generator that we got set up by Saturday evening and started the process to cool the fridge back down.  My son’s various finds like work lights and extension cords came in handy.

 

When the power came back on I had been in a deep sleep in a pitch black room.  Suddenly the small red glow from my bedside clock seemed like klieg lights and I had to chuckle at myself a bit how quickly I went from grateful to grumbly.

 

Electricity flows into our houses and we pay the monthly bills without thinking about how much more comfortable our lives are because of it.  My son kept trying to turn on light switches.  I kept forgetting to grab the lantern when I moved from room to room.  Thankfully it was a beautiful day in the high 70s, but when we got warm we wanted a fan…

 

I really needed a restful weekend so I could hit the reset button for this week at work.  At least I got a fairly normal Sunday.  I’ve had plenty of personal lessons in resilience, this was just the latest.  ‘Normal’ life resumed, for now.

 

(Disclaimer to Fate: I’m just telling a story here, I read an article on electricity in India, where it is not yet widespread or terribly reliable.  I get it, there is always someone doing better and always someone doing worse.)

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Strangeness of Ordinary

The litany of ills and travails – big and small, natural, geo-political, economic – seems to be unusually long around the globe right now.  Many people in many parts of the world are steeped in or trying to fend off chaos, their ordinary life set aside for the time being.  But plenty of other segments and corners of the populated world go about their ordinary business day after day and only encounter the chaos when they access the news.

 

Does that seem a bit strange to you?  While the main part of my mind is keeping track of my appointments, facilitating tasks at work, planning and cleaning and ticking through my days another part is contrasting my regular schedule against the topsy-turvy days of all the people affected by these various storms (manmade and natural).  And wondering how these people that I don’t know are coping.

 

It is back to school season and I see the effect at the school across the street as I leave for work.  My company supplies products to schools which means that we are quite hectic these days.  But aside from some people having flooded basements thanks to all the rain, or difficulty getting in to the office for the same reason we are all going through actions that we have done for ages, routine.

 

I do know someone whose son was evacuated from Liberia due the Ebola outbreak but that is as close as I personally come to most of the turmoil.  How about you?  Do you have relatives in Ukraine or Israel or Syria or Ferguson, MS or…

 

August 2013 Political Map, credit Wikipedia

August 2013 Political Map, credit Wikipedia

The world is a big place and it has always been true that there will be turmoil here and there and normal life will occur everywhere else.  Routine is annoying, but also comfort.  A seismic shift – either literal or not – that removes a person, a group, or a whole region from the ordinary usually seems to happen elsewhere.  Until it doesn’t.  Most of the time ordinary is just that, but every once in a while there is such a spike of chaotic activity, or the chaos hits too close to home, that ordinary seems rather strange.

 

I remember my first jolt of the strangeness of ordinary.  We were all called together because my grandmother was not doing well, but when I woke up the next morning at my uncle’s house and heard laughter downstairs I believed that she must have made it through the night.  Until my dad came up to tell us that she hadn’t.  How could they have been laughing?

 

I used the phrase ‘seismic shift’ earlier in this post because I have experienced real earthquakes, including a major one, and it is quite disorienting to have the ground beneath your feet move violently.  To see the damage that an earthquake can wreak up close.  The mind can’t quite take it in.

 

Knowing that disquiet I can’t decide if it is right to carry on normally or that there is great strangeness in the ordinary.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Rule Bound

Where do you stand on the role that rules play in life? Do rules create valid boundaries for protection of yourself, others, property?  Do rules hinder you from doing what you really want to do?  Do they offer guidelines?  Is the rule the most important thing, what the rule is meant to safeguard, or is it the spirit of the rule?  Do you think that rules should have a shelf-life, come up for periodic review?

 

I know people for whom rules are a means to an end.  The rules are to be applied or ignored in whatever fashion necessary to achieve the goal.  Perhaps sometimes just bent or loosely interpreted.  Creative thinking is liberally applied.

 

I know people for whom the rule is the ultimate.  The letter of the rule, the face of it – each rule stitched together with all of the others to provide these people with the comfort to get through all the moments of life.  No creative thinking necessary.

 

And I know plenty of people of varying stripes between these opposites.  And some who don’t seem to think much about rules one way or the other.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

It couldn’t have been long after people started to congregate that it became clear that some sort of standard was necessary.  Rules were born.  And they can be found in nature – plants and animals have them.  Do this, don’t do that.

 

Rules serve a purpose except when there are rules for the sake of rules.  They help to create commonality and structure.  But they can and should be examined for validity.  (Old laws on the books can be very odd, and sometimes hilarious.)

 

I used to tell my boys that if they thought any of my rules didn’t make sense, they should tell me.  Along with why.  Scoffing at a rule is easy, but putting together a compelling argument why the rule should be removed or changed is important.

 

It comes down to one of my favorite questions – what is the intent?  If the intent isn’t clear, well hmmm….  But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is ok to ignore or flaunt the rule.

 

How are the bindings on the rules around you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Here You Go

Problem solving has been an important part of my job description for as long as I can remember.  I like to put on the detective hat and sift through things to find the parts that are important, put them together in the right configuration and arrive at a solution.  Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward to figure out and sometimes plenty about the situation is a bit ambiguous.

 

There is one thing about problem solving that got old a long time ago, but is part and parcel of the problem solver’s lot in my experience.  It is the person who makes it a habit to hand over partial information, or fragments here and there in multiple email or phone messages.  They want you to solve it, but they can’t be bothered to try to put anything together in any sort of cohesive single place.

 

public domain image

public domain image

I’ll take the person who isn’t sure what they want or need kind of problem over the person who dumps a mess every time.  Most times.  Every once in a while I use the big mess as an excuse to be left alone to puzzle it all into something coherent.  But mostly I see it as a different facet of rude.  That person’s time is more important than mine.  (Though I concede that there may be other ways of looking at it…)

 

Sigh.  Focus on the boost that I hope to get upon resolution and not on the drudgery of slogging through the junk. This is why there are stories of the really good stuff one can find hidden in junk.  Think of ways to prevent the junk dump from repeat offenders.  Get caught up in the chase for the best solution.

 

Don’t be a here you go, dump and run person.  Please.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Waiting Patiently, Part 2

Patience – endurance, fortitude, perseverance, persistence, forbearance, resignation…  Do any of us have enough of this trait in any given moment of our days?  I like this definition: ‘an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay’.  Ah, a willingness to suppress – this implies that, if I want to, I can nurture this trait in myself.

 

Curiosity doesn’t have much patience with obstacles – it wants to know, and it wants to know right now.  Or wants to be or have or feel or experience…  Right now.

 

Having children requires a person to cultivate patience, Herculean patience in the face of unexplainable infant fury.  Empathy for their misery led me finally to patience.  It was my job to use my curiosity to understanding their needs and meet them if I could.  And soothe if I couldn’t.  Soothing requires patience.  Which comes in handy when the endless questions come, then the pushing of boundaries…

 

Gardening requires patience.  Plants grow even more slowly than children, but thankfully don’t have hours-long crying jags or want to know why.  I have one houseplant that I bought back in 1986 that is still going.  (My former mother-in-law even revived it from the mild frost-bite it got on a cross country trip.)  What will thrive, or make-do, or perish?  Why?  Patience is necessary to get these answers.

 

In our vegetable gardening this year, we are watching the tomatoes form and we are full of questions.  Impatient questions – how will they taste, when will they be ready?  Patient questions will get us there – how much sun, how much water?

DSC03854

Diligence is part of the definition of patience.  This one I understood from childhood on – because of its importance to structure and process and ritual.  Curiosity can’t really be sated without some understanding and application of methodology.  Where would I fit the new information if I didn’t have a means to categorize it in with the information that I already possess?  Diligence comes in handy to retain the information or experience that curiosity prompted.

 

Timing is an important component.  We bought the tomato plants in May, already a couple of inches tall, knowing that tomatoes wouldn’t actually be ready until sometime in August.  Now that it is August, the patience is wearing a little thin.  The ability and willingness to suppress our restlessness for our homegrown tomatoes is getting harder to apply.  But more crucial to a successful outcome.

 

There are so many places and instances where I can apply this patience I have learned, am learning.  At work, while driving, in line, when I’m out of sorts…

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

How Much ‘Summer’ in Summer?

August is upon us and the back-to-school ads have started to appear.  Gardens are about to produce tomatoes and cucumbers galore.  Leaves on trees are looking a bit tired and worn here and there after shining in their green spectrum from early pale to later deep green.  We still have a couple more months to go before the plants all go dormant for the cooler months.

 

I haven’t taken a vacation, or even devoted a whole day to summer activities, but I have vicariously enjoyed those of friends and family on Facebook and in-person telling.  And I have thought about what constitutes a summer moment so that I don’t miss them when they occur.  In early June, I wrote this piece about summer and the importance of noting this season.

 

Summer isn’t just a season, it is an idea – a representation of things to strive for like relaxation and laughter with friends and family.  It is nostalgia in a different form than what the holiday season brings forth.  The sound of children laughing in early evening brings me back to those moments in long ago yards playing tag or chasing fireflies with a group of other kids.  The joy of still being up and out in the dark when we would normally have been tucked into bed.

 

Enjoying the idea of summer in adulthood takes effort, a deliberateness that wasn’t necessary in childhood.  First we have to be conscious that this effort is even required.  Summer was spontaneous in our younger years and we might expect this to continue, we might feel discontent when it does not.

 

For several years in the transition from child to adult, I didn’t think about summer much at all.  Perhaps because I was busy figuring out what being an adult meant for me.  Perhaps because I was doing this figuring out in California, where the seasons are subtle and mostly all have the feel of summer.  It wasn’t until my children were old enough to have a summer break in school, and summers had the same rhythm they had in my childhood that I started to think about what makes summer.

 

Then I was divorced with two boys and a full time job and I had to make sure they had a summer while basically foregoing one for myself.  Or so I thought because I thought of summer as long stretches of unscheduled time to explore and enjoy.

DSC03845

Now summer comes in moments, sips, or bursts.  And I enjoy them.

  • Time on a patio with family or friends
  • The hummingbird that visits the Rose of Sharon in the corner of my yard
  • Watching the tomato plants grow and tomatoes form
  • The firefly that hovered in front of the dog and I on a late evening walk
  • The dragonfly that reluctantly posed for this picture
  • The little boy gleefully whizzing by on his bike
  • The sound of lawn mowers while I still laze in bed on a weekend
  • Thunderstorms clearing the humidity from the air

 

How much summer is in your summer so far?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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